The Life-Giving Nature of Words

A photo from a service that took place Sunday, February 21 at St. Clement's, St. Paul
A photo from a service that took place Sunday, February 21 at St. Clement’s, St. Paul

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14)

I am spending a lot of time during this Lenten season dwelling on these words. Much of my reflection has turned toward the Word and words, and the life-giving nature of both. Many of you have often heard me say, “The words we use are important.” Words can be life-giving, thus drawing one ever closer to the Word, or they can be life-taking, thus moving one in the opposite direction.

In her book Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor describes the value of gathering as God’s people. “A place where they may engage the steady practice of listening to divine words and celebrating divine sacraments, church can help people gain a feel for how God shows up.” God does show up, and is made known in our words. As such, not only are the words we use paramount, but as important is our own attentiveness to listening to the Word.

In his book In Search of Sacred Places: Looking for Wisdom on Celtic Holy Islands, Daniel William Taylor writes these words: “Some people take away souvenirs and photographs from these islands. I take away still, small voices. These voices continue to whisper to me of increased possibilities for living. They whisper to me certain verbs – simplify, focus, release, risk, commit, pray, bless, believe. They whisper certain nouns – peace, gratitude, contentment, solitude, discipline, friendship, reverence. Most of all they whisper that word which is both verb and noun, action and state of being – they whisper the word, ‘love’.” 

So this Lent I’m continuing to ask myself, “Do my words whisper love? Am I listening deeply for the whispering of love in the words of others?”

Here’s my prayer from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Into the Interior:

“I am your whispered voice
your inside voice
your interior voice
your unheard voice
your unspoken voice
your unvoiced voice
your unspeakable voice
I am your heart’s voice and your heartless voice
your deepest voice
under layers of living & speaking
the voice of your buried life
your invisible life
your silent life
your unknown life
your unopened life
your unrealized life
the undiscovered life that no one sees
not even your lover
not even yourself

If you will listen to me
if you will lend me the ear
of your mind
and of your bent heart
if you will heed my whisperings …
heed my whisperings…
heed my whisperings…
heed my whisperings…”

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